I am super busy these days, but there are a certain number of films that I could not pass up when it came to checking them out on Blu-ray, at my own leisure, in the comfort of my own home. The following list is set of films that I consider to be some of the best that the Blu-ray format has had to offer for this year. Much like last year, I stayed true to some rules; I have to have actually watched the movie on Blu-Ray and delved into the special features and most importantly, I did not put any film on the list that may also be on my “Top 10 Films of the year” list. This means excluding films like Rango and Attack the Block (which have fantastic Blu-rays). For the sake of keeping my list interesting, I followed these rules; so here we go:
Special Mention for TV Series Blu-rays: Justified: The Complete First Season, Louie: The Complete First Season (Review HERE), Spartacus: Gods of the Arena (Review HERE), The Walking Dead: Season 1 – Special Edition
10. Kung Fu Panda 2 – A wonderful sequel to an already great first film. This new adventure features Po and the gang taking on the malevolent Lord Shen and his newfound weaponry for the sake of saving kung fu. As this was both stunning in terms of its story and in its action and animation, the Blu-ray for the film does amazing justice to the film. Fantastic picture and audio quality highlight both the brightly colored animation and show off the wonderful action choreography on the small screen, accompanied by the great score and kung fu sound design. Add to that a plethora of extras that detail both the production of the film, while also providing additional fun features for younger audiences, and all new stories for everyone to enjoy. A very impressive package that will help you find inner piece.
“Tell those musicians to start playing action music, because it is on!” (Order HERE)
9. Criterion Tie: Blow Out, Broadcast News, The Killing, Kiss Me Deadly – Once again, it is always tough to narrow down between the many great Blu-ray releases from The Criterion Collection, so I feel I have no choice but to narrow it down to a few of my favorites. Criterion always delivers and the movies I have chosen are all fantastic. Their Blu-rays are all designed to look and sound great, while also informing the viewer of the film’s history with brand new special features on the disc and the little booklets always included in the package. The picks I have listed include a comedy, two classic film noirs, and a De Palma thriller, all the variety one would need to really enjoy what Criterion has to offer.
8. The Lord of the Rings Motion Picture Trilogy – Extended Editions – I am not the biggest ‘Ringer’; I have not even read the books. However, I do admire the acclaimed motion picture trilogy that is The Lord of the Rings and the work that Peter Jackson and his entire team had put into these films. I had not seen all of the ‘Extended Edition’ versions of these films up until this year, where I got to experience the Blu-rays in action, projected onto a movie theater screen. Even regardless of my opinions on each of the films (they get better as the progress for me), these films look and sound great. Along with the wonderful cinematography, the fantastic effects work by WETA still holds true and the audio presentation is there to match. All of the special features previously available on the DVD versions are here as well; unfortunately all in SD, but it is still an all-encompassing look at the creation of these films. A great package for anyone desiring a near definitive Lord of the Rings set.
“All our hopes now lie with two little hobbits, somewhere in the wilderness.” (Order HERE)
7. The Big Lebowski – Another release of The Big Lebowski is always a time to celebrate. With the number of releases of The Big Lebowski that have come out so far, we may never get a definitive one, but at least it is now available on Blu-ray. It helps that the film is among my top films of all time, because it is not as fantastic a video and audio presentation as some of the other films on this list, but it is very good and the disc even manages to pack in all of the old special features and a few new ones. Honestly, I would rather just stop talking about the Blu-ray and just quote this constantly hilarious film, but I will make a shout out to all the other Coen Brother films, which are now almost all available on Blu-ray. The Coen’s have always had a keen eye when it comes to cinematography, and ‘Lebowski’ is no exception, as it is a very good looking film to watch on Blu-ray, let alone a great one to hear all of the memorable quotes in wonderful lossless DTS-HD. Far out man.
6. X-Men: First Class – I am still very pleased with how this all managed to come together. Despite the rushed production schedule (and I still believe another few months could have made this film near flawless), X-Men: First Class was a very exciting film matched with great direction from Matthew Vaughn, an impressive handling on the source material, and of course the secret weapon that is Michael Fassbender. The Blu-ray that this film is available on is also quite exciting, as it boasts stellar sound and video, along with a terrific documentary that goes over the making of the film. Given that I tend to check out the extras on superhero movies almost immediately when they come out, I was quite happy to feel so involved with the making of this film, based on the quality of the extras. First Class certainly passes the test.
5. The Social Network – One of the best films from last year (review HERE) will now receive a bit more praise this year due to its fantastic Blu-ray presentation. Director David Fincher’s films have continued to receive wonderful treatment when it comes to their home releases (with the exception of The Game), and The Social Network is no different. It is a fantastic looking film, with a fantastic score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and this is all very well captured on Blu-ray. Add to that a lengthy documentary that goes over the production of the film, additional behind the scenes footage, and two commentary tracks, and this is everything you would want out of a film that was already great. Click “Like” on this Blu-ray.
“I’m talking about taking the entire social experience of college and putting it online.” (Order HERE)
4. The Incredibles – My favorite Pixar film (well it’s tied with two others, but I’ve watched this one the most) finally came to Blu-ray this year and it is, of course, incredible. Pixar always delivers wonderful looking films that continue to look great at home and this Blu-ray provides a fantastic audio and video presentation. This is great for a film that has so much going on in terms of the action/adventure plotting of the film and the wonderful music and sound effects that carry on throughout. Further supporting the quality of this Blu-ray, the entire assortment of great special features previously available are seen on this disc (in HD!), as well as a few new ones, including a very entertaining retrospective for the film. The Incredibles is as a great a film as always and finally having it in a superior format to view the film in is super.
“No matter how many times you save the world, it always manages to get back in jeopardy again.” (Review HERE and Order HERE)
3. Evil Dead 2 (25th Anniversary Edition) – Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy is my favorite horror franchise and Evil Dead 2 is one of my favorite films of all time. Anyone familiar with this series is aware of the many many releases that these films seem to get, but decide to buy anyway. Well now we have the 25th Anniversary of Evil Dead 2 and it is awesome. This film probably looks about the best it ever will on Blu-ray, which is still quite good, given the low budget nature of this series. Additionally, there is a brand new, fantastic feature length documentary that goes over everything about the film. It’s a very well made extra that is enough for me to buy on its own, if that were an option to begin with. There are also several other new special features, along with the extras previously available on the other releases. Evil Dead 2 is a wonderful, off-the-wall, horror comedy camp classic and I am glad I have what is hopefully the definitive version of this film in my possession.
“Groovy” (Order HERE)
2. Pulp Fiction/Jackie Brown – No, I can’t separate these. I love both of these films too much to have one out rank the other in my eyes. Regardless, what puts these two films near the top of the list (beyond the fact that they are near the top of my list for all time favorite films) is the fact that they boast two of the best video transfers I have ever seen on Blu-ray. Notably along with North by Northwest, of all films, these are the movies that completely show me what Blu-ray is all about in terms of making the picture look absolutely fantastic. The audio is of course very good as well, but the picture truly stuck out to me and it is great to see that Tarantino put a lot of care into making these films come out right. Given how much of a film nerd he is, I am sure his heavy involvement (his seal of approval is on the box) did really help the final product. There are also a few new extra features along with all the old ones available on the disc. So yes, it is a Tarantino tie for my number 2 spot, with only one logical choice remaining to take the crown…
1. Star Wars: The Complete Saga – I cannot say that this was a “without question” decision, but after thinking about it, it only seemed logical. This is Star Wars on Blu-ray we’re talking about! It is the biggest film franchise of all time and bitch about the prequels others may do all they like, I am a lifelong Star Wars fan. Getting all (yes, all) of these films on Blu-ray is something fans have been clamoring for since Blu-ray’s inception and September, 2011, was the time we were all rewarded with a high def presentation of the Star Wars saga. It was a bit curious/annoying to see that the first two prequels did not boast the best video quality in comparison to the original trilogy, but they still look pretty damn good (and the originals look great), but the audio on all of them is quite fantastic. Add to that a giant assortment of extra features that covers every chapter, along with a lot of additional bonus extras that detail all sorts of Star Wars related material and you have a pretty expansive Blu-ray package. The force was with this one for sure.
“I suggest a new strategy, R2. Let the Wookiee win.” (Order HERE)
Honorable Mentions: Beats, Rhymes, & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, Black Swan (Review HERE), Bridesmaids (Review HERE), Citizen Kane, Do the Right Thing, Fast Five (Review HERE), Insidious (Review HERE), Jurassic Park Trilogy, The Lion King (Review HERE), Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Review HERE), Super 8 (Review HERE), Taxi Driver, Tree of Life, Tron: Legacy (Review HERE), True Grit (Review HERE)